The Advent of the Surfoplane phenomenon on our beaches led to an increase in lifesavers responses, a fatality, along with lives being saved
During the last year of primary school a weekend with a friend living behind Clifton Beach in Tasmania, an open beach renowned for capturing huge waves right out of the southern extremes of the planet, I took a small bright yellow paddle board out into the waves. As I paddled out I noticed the seasoned surfers who frequented this spot were paddling back in and absently wondered why. As soon as I reached the back I saw why - huge waves were barrelling in. It was the first time I felt fear in the ocean. I turned onto the second or third wave in the first set then coming in, knowing I had to stay calm, stay on the wave and hold onto the board to make it back into shore. At the same time, some kind of quietness or 'presence' was instantly with me.
Thankfully I did make it into shore.
Afterwards, on the beach, my friend said those surfers there were wondering which of them would go out to get me. The looks of admiration from those surfers didn't mean much to an embarrassed 11 year old, especially one still shaking, and by then, freezing.
Obviously the flotation device that was that little yellow plastic board saved my life, as it allowed me to catch that wave back in - but would I have had the confidence to go out in the first place without it? Probably not. I may have already done my Bronze Medallion, as we all had to in the first year of high school back then, but that did not make me safe in waves of that size.
The development of these surf mats, boogie boards and the like, which today give us great lifesaving equipment like the surf rescue board, and even great training equipment, in the Nippers board, come with hazards, as instanced above.The recent Profile on Damian and Lucie Geyle of the Barrenjoey Swim School shared an insight that Damian had to go to the aid of a 14 year old boy swept out on a boogie board off Avalon Beach on March 7th 1995, a rescue which thankfully was successful, although Damian reiterates through the interview the perils associated with flotation devices and youngsters, especially when these are thought to make it safer for the young to go into the ocean. They do not - especially when the user can be so easily swept out to sea via a rip and become separated from the device they are using.
The Profile on Paul Bailey reiterates a similar event, this time at the Ocean Bridge at Narrabeen Lagoon during the 2022 Spring school holidays, where a strong current runs, and a young boy on a boogie board, who then fell off into that current, has prompted the Council to act on mitigating dangers at this spot, especially for visitors during peak season.
The recently released National Water Safety Summit 2022 Review has also pointed out that the Covid lockdowns mean we now have children who have not been able to access swimming lessons and may be more at risk as a result. This experience was echoed by the Geyles just a few weeks ago.
What Damian and Paul responded to brings to mind the tragedy of Victor Vivian Guest drowning at Palm Beach on Sunday December 26th 1937, Boxing Day.
Alike the boy saved at Avalon Beach, Victor was swept out to sea in the channel that can form at the southern end of the beach beside the rockpool and was then tipped off his surfoplane by a wave. Despite lifesavers racing to his aid they could not sight him in choppy waters and hundreds of people on the beach, including relatives holidaying with him, witnessed the boy go under and then he was lost to sight.
His body was never recovered.
Palm Beach SLSC records state that when approached for permission to establish franchises on its beaches, the Warringah Shire Council decided that the issue was a matter for surf clubs to decide. The SLSA conducted an inquiry into surfoplanes and found they were quite acceptable, giving the green light to clubs to accept lucrative sole franchise fees on offer by the manufacturer.
The Surfoplane Company offered the Palm Beach SLSC a yearly fee of £15 if it was allowed to be the sole agent of surfoplanes on the beach. While the Club agreed in principle, it was decided that the sum of £15 was too small and that the sum of £20 was more appropriate.
Another surf craft, the surf-ski, also arrived late in the 1936-37 Season, with Council now in charge of allowing those who wished to hire these out collecting any fees to do so. Palm Beach SLSC considered these to be dangerous craft to have among swimmers but the company who would be hiring them out stated they would be using a portion of the beach away from the swimming area, as they were already doing at Manly. However, with the arrival of these at Palm Beach the club’s first aid cabinet saw much more frequent use. The skis did not stay out of the bathing area and were made from heavy wood.
In the 1936-37 season the club performed 40 rescues. With the increase of these surf craft that number jumped to over 200 in the 1937-38 Season – and the loss of one life.
The use of surfoplanes by inexperienced swimmers resulted in the club’s first fatality in the Patrol area.
On Boxing day 1937, Sunday December 26th, when many members were attending a carnival at Killcare, leaving only a four man patrol on the beach and a choppy sea, tragedy struck. Being Boxing Day, and a beautiful day, the beach was crowded, although some tempers were apparently being frayed by the antics of a red kelpie dog incessantly barking as it frolicked on the waters edge.
At around 1.30 p.m. two surfoplanes were seen to be drifting out of the bathing area. As a strong current was running in the southern corner, Patrol Captain R. M. ‘Arthur’ Stephens donned the belt and proceeded toward the surfoplanes. At this time the surfoplane users had made no signal for help but they soon realised that they were the subject of the lifesaver’s attention.
Stephens reached the first surfoplane to be told by the user that he could get to shore. On the second surfoplane was a young Victor Vivian Guest, whose family from Turrawan was holidaying at Palm Beach. Guest was further out than the first surfoplane and closer to the strong current. Just as Stephens was leaving the first to pursue the second, Victor was struck by a large wave and washed off his surfoplane. Now in the current he was whisked with great speed out to sea. Stephens gave chase, using the current, but soon lost sight of Victor in the rough conditions.
Watching from Chorleys, Adrian Curlewis had seen Stephens enter the water and had proceeded to the beach with a box line which he deposited beside the reel. He then proceeded around the rocks about 200 yards (183 metres). From this point he could see Guest who was still afloat but completly exhausted.
The current, once clearing the point, had turned northward and so he was now about 100 yards (91 metres) north of the rocks. By this time Stephens was over 300 yards (274 metres) from shore. Curlewis was able to direct Stephens to Guest's position.
Curlewis was soon joined by Club member Alan ‘Dad’ Major and a number of local volunteers who had carried the box line around the rocks. It was now apparent that Guest was in ‘great distress, floating at times beneath the surface’. Major entered the surf without a belt and was followed shortly thereafter by Curlewis using the box line belt.
Upon entering the water Curlewis and Major could see neither Guest nor Stephens and were forced to rely on periodical sightings of Stephens’ line as a directional aid. Stephens had again lost sight of Guest who was by this stage 150 yards (137 metres) north of the rocks and many hundreds of yards from the beach.
Watchers from the rocks later reported that when Stephens was about 10 yards (9 metres) from Guest, the boy disappeared completely from sight. By this stage Major had swum 130 yards (119 metres) from the rocks and Curlewis, whose progress was impeded by waves breaking across his line, about 100 yards (91 metres).
With no sign of Guest, Stephens made three dives in about 30 feet (9 metres) of water in a further attempt to locate the boy. The attempts were unsuccessful, and with no sign of Guest and near exhaustion, Stephens signalled to be hauled in, collecting Major on his way to the beach. Due to the heavy drag of the current and waves breaking on them, the haul-in took over ten minutes. Curlewis was also hauled back to the rocks.
Immediately after Stephens’ and Major's return to the beach a request was sent to radio station 2UW (which sponsored a shark spotter plane) and Mascot Aerodrome for an aeroplane to assist in the search. With the Club's surf boat at Killcare, Mona Vale SLSC was also contacted and its surf boat set off shortly thereafter, reaching Palm Beach at about 3.30 p.m. In the meantime, Club member J.G. ‘Don’ Rohr proceeded to sea with a surf ski and spent more than hour searching for Guest within a 600 yard (548 metre) radius of the beach. The Mona Vale boat searched in very choppy conditions until 6.00 p.m. also without success.
Throughout the night Club members patrolled the entire beach to Barrenjoey in search of Guest's body. At 6.00 a.m. the next day one Club member, R.C. Godsall, used his own plane to search for the boy but again with-out success. Fearing that the boy may have been taken by a shark, Club members Barton Honey and Jim Barnes set up a shark line in the channel where he had disappeared. Three days later a 9 foot 6 inch (2.9 metre) Tiger shark was caught. Upon dragging the creature onto the beach they immediately noticed a large bulge in its underbelly which seemed to confirm their worst fears. The assembled crowd was cleared and preparations made to open the shark and remove its contents. The object inside the shark, however, was not Vivian Guest but a red Kelpie dog whose silence had been forgotten in the trauma of the rescue.
In the wake of the tragedy a newspaper report was critical of the Club because its surf boat had not been on the beach but at the Killcare carnival where it was laying buoys and acting as the shark picket. The Club responded that the incident happened so quickly that a crew for the boat could not have been mustered and could not have reached the point where the incident occurred in time.
In a report to the Council it also noted the ‘brother of the deceased boy who was present and witnessed the whole affair, thanked the beltman for his efforts and stated that he was satisfied that everything possible had been done’. The official report into the incident by the SLSA agreed that given the time of day and the conditions, a surf boat ‘would been sufficient to do more than Stephens did in the belt’. If blame was to be metered out then the surfoplane and surf ski rental system was guilty: “The occurrence again illustrates the danger of allowing inexperienced swimmers and bathers who cannot swim to use hired surf-o-planes and surf skis’.
In response to the Club's concerns, the Council instructed the manager of the surf ski concession to not hire his craft to ‘anyone who does not conform to regulations or seems incapable’. The Club, however, rejected that such action was sufficient, and in calling for the lease for the following season to be terminated, it suggested that the Council would not want to ‘bind itself for a lengthy period when it may wish as soon as the first fatality has occurred, to prohibit the hiring out of skis altogether’.
BOY SWEPT FROM SURF FLOAT.
Carried Out to Sea.
PALM BEACH TRAGEDY.
In view of hundreds of surfers at Palm Beach yesterday, Victor Vivian Guest, 14, of Turrawa, in the north- west part of the State, was knocked off a surf float by a wave and drowned.
His body has not been recovered.
Guest was on a holiday in Sydney, and had been staying with his brother in Gilbert Street, Rose Bay. A family party was enjoying the day at Palm Beach when the boy went out on a surf float about 1.50 p.m.
A dangerous current was sweeping the beach. Guest was seen near the southern end of the beach, but none in the hundreds of surfers suspected that he was in trouble until a wave threw him off the float. A beach life-saver named Stevens went out to help. As the boy was being carried out to sea, the crowd on the beach and on the rocks could see him making desperate efforts to swim back against the current.
Stevens was able to get within a few yards of him when the boy was suddenly engulfed by a wave.
Stevens went out again, and was assisted by other surfers in an unsuccessful search for the boy. A young woman showed great daring by swimming out towards the spot where the boy was last seen. Men on surf planes endeavoured to send her back, but she swam on, and after she returned to the beach she went out again.
Police will continue the search for the body to-day. BOY SWEPT FROM SURF FLOAT. (1937, December 27 - Monday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17439270
WITHIN 10 FEET OF RESCUE
Country Boy Drowned At Palm Beach
SURF LIFESAVERS, with lines and a surf-ski, made desperate efforts to save Vivian Guest, 14, who was drowned under dramatic circumstances in boisterous surf at Palm Beach yesterday. At one stage a beltman was within 10 feet of Guest, but could not see him.
AFTER being swept from his surfoplane and making a frantic fight to swim ashore, Guest, who was holidaying In Sydney from the northwest town of Turrawan, between Boggabri and Narrabri, disappeared before his rescuers could reach him.
Among those who attempted to save Guest was the president of the Surf Life Saving Association, Mr. Adrian Curlewis. It was the first drowning tragedy at Palm Beach since a club was Inaugurated there 18 years ago.
As the surfers, exhausted by their vain fight against the rough, choppy sea to rescue Guest, returned to the shore, a young Sydney woman, Bee Miles, swam out. In a belt she was wearing were two knives. She was almost lost to sight by crowds watching from the beach and foreshores, and concern was felt for her. She swam almost a mile' before regaining the shore, but could not find any trace of Guest. With Brother
Guest was with his brother, Constable Guest, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Guest, of Rose Bay. He entered the water about 2.16 p.m. after having his lunch. Soon after he was seen being buffeted on his surfoplane, There was a strong undertow. When about 60 or 70 yards out, he was knocked off the float. Guest waved his hands for help. With Dick Hunt, Bill Bathgate and Alan Major working at the reel, Arthur Stephens swam from the south end of the beach with a lifeline. Five minutes later Mr. Adrian Curlewis, who, with a number of others, had hastened around the rocks past the swimming baths with a portable reel, plunged into the water with another lifeline. He was Joined by Alan Major, who was without a belt. Guest was then about 160 yards from the shore. He was being rapidly swept out. .
Within 10 Feet
Stephens got to within 10 feet of Guest, but, owing to the rough sea, he could not see the boy. There was a gasp of dismay by the hundreds watching when they saw this. They yelled instructions across the water and gesticulated, but It was Impossible for Stephens to find Guest, whose body, still noticeable from the shore, was about three feet under the water. Forced to abandon their quest, the men returned to the shore while Don Rohr, with a surf ski, went out.
Mr. Curlewis was exhausted when he got out of the water. Before this his lifeline had fouled the rocks, and he had some anxious moments. Also clinging to his line on returning to shore was Alan Major. Stephens had been out about 20 minutes. His eyes were bloodshot and he was gasping for breath when he returned. He was shocked when told that he had been within an ace of saving Guest, and explained that he could not see the latter. The foreshores are still being watched for the body. WITHIN 10 FEET OF RESCUE (1937, December 27). The Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 - 1938), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article237424604
However, the surfoplane proved its worth as a life saving device the following year on Sunday February 6, 1938, the infamous Black Sunday, when five people drowned at Bondi Beach and 250 were rescued. Records show the surfoplane was among the flotation devices taken out to those in danger by lifesavers and accounts for many of the lives saved.
The surfoplane was a phenomenon when first introduced to our beaches. Touted as an affordable version of a surfboard, the inventor and the company formed to produce this chose to set up hiring facilities along Sydney and beaches all over Australia. This made sense in an era when not everyone could afford a car to transport all the gear associated with a day at the beach to the shoreline and buses to and from were used and would not allow too much paraphernalia impacting on other commuters. Although the surfoplane was not the size of a surfboard, it was still unwieldy for bus transportation. Added to this, hiring them out at first represented a lucrative deal for those who secured such contracts as the rush to get into the water expanded.
Although their peak usage in this way was during the fiscally straitened 1930's, there were still enough customers who could afford the hire fee. Warringah Shire Council also saw this as a means to generate income for meeting costs on the beach and elsewhere - they still had to pay for some permanent lifesavers along with meeting the build fees for facilities such as showers, toilets and change rooms visitors to the beaches under their jurisdiction expected. However, records show the availability of these on beaches in our area also created much more work for the volunteer lifesavers, with those stationed at beach after beach stating that of the rescues they had to perform, the majority were to rescue those on surfoplanes - sometimes 100 on a single day.
The surfoplanes' popularity did not decrease despite the perils associated with them - many of us can remember a version of some sort from our childhood. The bodyboard or boogie board is a modern day version with competitions now showcasing the athletes who excel in this field. Many of our World Champion surfers commenced learning their sport on these surf mats.
The surfoplane was the idea of a Dr. Ernest Smithers who would also patent a design for the jaffle iron in 1949 and come up with many other brilliant ideas to make life easier or better. Newspaper reports from then state it took eight years to develop.
A patent application (#9929 Class 3) for a "Surf plane" by E. E Smithers and C. D. Richardson was lodged on the October 7th 1932. - Official Journal of Trade Marks and Designs, Volume 3, Number 13, 1933, page 432.
Warringah shire council records that at the Meeting held December 19th, 1932:
Krapehide Rubber Products Co. 14/12/32, requesting permission to-hire out on beaches air inflated surfoplanes. Council Resolved: That they be granted permission provided the spaces to be used by them be allotted by the Inspectors.-,
Krapehide were concerned with replacement soles for shoes prior to this.
On December 14th 1933 the Patent Office accepted a Trade Mark design for the "Surfo-plane": "CLASS 49 (Games of all kinds and sporting articles not included in other classes.) 61,515 Rubber surf board. ERNEST ERIC SMITHERS, and CARL WORDSWORTH RICHARDSON, of 193 Macquarie-street, Sydney, NSW, Australia, manufacturers, - 11th March, 1933.". Official Journal of Trade Marks and Designs Volume 3, Number 13, 1933, page 1421.
Then a company was registered, which included an apparent friend of Dr. Smithers and possible inspiration for the name:
SURFOPLANES, LTD.—Reg. 6/4/34. Cap.: £20,000 in 10,000 cumulative preference, 2500 ordinary, and 7500 £1 shares to be issued at the discretion of the directors. Objects: To adopt an agreement dated 17/3/34 between Ernest E. Smithers, of Macquarie-st., Sydney, medical practitioner, and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, of the one part, and T. H. Wynne-Lewis, as trustee for the company, of the other part, and to carry on the business of vendors, hirers and manufacturers of the invention known as Surfo Planes, etc. Subscribers: Ernest E. McLachlan, Percy A. Hocking, Alfred S. Smithers, Athol J. Sutherland, Alexander J. Nathan, Thomas H. Wynne-Lewis and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1 share each). First directors: Dr. Ernest E. Smithers and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. Reg. office: 18 Martin-place, Sydney. (1909 – April 16, 1934 Issue). Dun's gazette for New South Wales Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-819668581
An article tells how the invention was discovered by accident:
Riding On Air In The Surf
By JOHN WILLIAMS
For eight years Dr. Ernest Smithers, of Macquarie Street literally walked on air, and then came to earth this summer with an invention which is destined to introduce a huge people to one of the world's cheapest and most thrilling sports, to save many lives, and to carry Australia's name into every corner of the earth!
His invention is a rubberised fabric surfoplane, or a rubber oblong "bag," corrugated, and designed scientifically so that it can do all the work of a surfboard — and more.
STRANGELY enough, although surfoplanes will replace surfboards, they do not in the least resemble them. Overseas manufacturers years ago, realising that the heavy surfboards of wood, dangerous on crowded beaches, must be replaced by something offering the same thrills without the danger, copied the design of the boards into rubber. But the principles that operate in wood will not in rubber. Surf floats in all shapes and sizes were made in rubber but still the boards remained the thrill supreme. Dr. Smithers, who lives at Bondi and is a keen surfer, eight years ago started experimenting with rubber surf planes. He has made hundreds of different types.
"Our home was littered with rubber bags, yellow, pink, blue, red, and all shapes and sizes," the doctor recalls. "We stumbled over and walked and slept on them for years. We talked about nothing else at meal times. We lived on air! I was determined to evolve the correct type.
World medical statistics show that nose, ear, and antrum troubles are worst in Sydney because here we surf so much that the sand penetrates and causes the troubles. "The measurements of our perfected surfoplanes are 35 inches long by 27 with a buoyancy (which is the secret) to support the- heaviest person afloat.
"I discovered these proportions through an accident I had with a copy in rubber of an actual surfboard. It snapped in half In the surf, and I found I raced ashore on one half, riding the breakers FASTER AND STRAIGHTER than I could on a board!
"Those few seconds of practical experience taught me more than years and years of research. And the result Is what we have to-day —a faultless safety surfoplane."
The benefits of a surfoplane, as I saw at Bondi yesterday, are: First, because of its lightness and cheapness it brings the sport within the grasp of old and young. I saw a baby boy of 11 months afloat on one and a few yards away a bearded man of 74 recapturing lost youth with another!
Surfboards in the hands of hundreds of swimmers racing through a crowd of thousands in the water would be dangerous — bumps, bruises, and injuries. But surfoplanes, which axe blown up by the mouth to only 21b. pressure, cannot inflict even a scratch. For years old and young have sat on the sands and envied the owners of surfboards their thrills and spills out on the rollers, but surfoplanes have broken down the exclusiveness of surfboards. Anybody who can swim can "shoot" the breakers now. And surfoplanes keep the head out of water, enabling you to see where you are going and banishing the cause of antrum and other head troubles. And they are great fun as rafts for children in smooth water. They give the kiddies confidence.
Already this season many people who have got into difficulties owe their lives to surfoplanes. Each can support six men clinging to it like a lifebelt. The idea is: If you see a person in trouble give him (mostly her! ) the closest surfoplane and then tow him to safety. Surfoplanes give colorful pep to a crowded beach because they are painted canary yellow, the color which stands put best in the water. And they are useful as protection against the fierce sun and cold winds, and as beach cushion and tables.
DR. SMITHERS with his surfoplane.
HERE IS A BONDI FOX-TERRIER which has been trained to ride the surfoplane, and can do so safely.
Dr. Smithers, through his marketing partner, Mr, Frank Knight, has obtained the exclusive rights to rent surfoplanes on all the metropolitan beaches from Palm Beach to the south coast. At Bondi, for example, Stan McDonald, well-known life-saver and patrolman, has forsaken his beach work to rent them. And from his stall to the surf there is a canary yellow bee-line of young and old racing back and forth with their surfoplanes. ... .
Dr. Smithers shortly will go abroad with his all-Australian invention, which already is giving work to many Australians. He will visit Hawaii and the U.S.A., and then Europe "and everywhere there is a drop of water in which people swim!" Every surfoplane will be branded "Australian surfoplane" and there is no reason why enterprising young Australians should not go abroad and become selling and renting agents for them on foreign beaches. (See pictures on back page.) Riding On Air In The Surf (1934, January 6). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248961863
These mermaids show how surfoplanes can be used against cold winds. Mr. H. Myers, a Bondi veteran of 74 summers, shows another use for a surfoplane. She proves how you can shoot the waves with' perfect grace on a surfo-plane. left : Jackson, Shelton, Scarth, and Strecker, English speedway riders, show the strength of surfoplanes.
HOTFOOTING IT to the surf with their surfoplanes, which give new life to surfing. Comfort ashore with a surfoplane as a cushion, handy on rocks and wet sand.
SURFOPLANES, an Australian invention of Dr. Smithers (below at right), are now the rage on Sydney beaches. Mr. F. Knight (below at left) has change of world marketing, and young Pete Coy, in his first summer, rides one expertly. (See story, Page 6.) Copies of these pictures can be obtained from the "Sun"-"Telegraph" Feature Bureau, Elizabeth Street, City. No title (1934, January 6). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248962000
Another a few days later:
SURFOPLANING — THE NEW NATIONAL AUSTRALIAN SPORT
The extraordinary variety of design of surf and water toys has been sufficient proof of their ineffectiveness. Eight years constant experimentation on the part of Dr. Ernest Smithers, of Bondi, with rubberised fabrics produced the surfoplane which, in the few months of its introduction to Sydney, has revolutionised surfing. The surfoplane is so designed as to float the largest person and enables him to use his hands and feet as propelling agents to such effect that after a little practice he can move much faster than the ordinary swimmer, and can safely shoot the largest breaker. Only 2 1/2lbs in weight, and inflated by mouth, the surfoplane is so light and soft that it can be used in the largest crowds. It is so buoyant that it supports six persons hanging on it, and ushers in a new era of safety for swimmers. SURFOPLANING — THE NEW NATIONAL AUSTRALIAN SPORT (1934, January 10). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938), p. 25. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166102553
Ernest Eric Smithers was born in 1901 in Petersham, the son of Ernest William Beker Smithers and Martha Ridge (Miller) Smithers, and had a brother in Henry J Smithers. He was the husband of Vera Elizabeth (nee Maidment). They married in October 1921, registered at Petersham, although they separated in 1933 and divorce proceedings commenced in 1934 and were completed in 1940. He remarried in 1941, to Winifred Osmond (nee Medlicot).
In A Paipo Interview with John Ruffels a Telephone interview by Bob Green of 2010, John, a habitué of Bondi during this time states:
''He started off as a court reporter. He was quite proficient when he first left school but something got into his bonnet and he decided he'd go back to school, to university. He went to night school first, then university to get a medical degree. He was going along swimmingly until he got into a serious disagreement with the head of the medical faculty of the University of Sydney. So he thought, "My chances of passing a degree at this university aren't very good." So he upped with his wife and daughter and went over to Scotland and England, and finished his degree there and came back.
''When he was (back) here, he needed money so he went over to Palm Beach and started repairing yachts, and buying and selling yachts, to get a bit of money.''
Apparently it was while here, at Palm Beach, he came into contact with canvas flotation devices used when repairing yachts and the idea was sparked.
Warringah Shire Records show, after that by late 1932 they allowed them to be hired out and this immediately caused problems. At the January 16th, 1933 council Meeting it was recorded that Geo. Dempster, Park Ranger, 16/1/33, was objecting to use of surfoplanes on Deewhy Beach. This was referred to the Inspector for report.
On January 30th, 1933: Re objections to use of surfoplanes on beaches: Resolved, - That the report be*adopted.. (Crs. Nicholas, Hitchcock) . (3) Re action taken to put down dog nuisance on beaches, recommending that offending owners be warned: Resolved; That-the recommendation be adopted. (Crs. Nicholas, Austin)
Later that year, at the October 23rd, 1933 council Meeting a letter from the Surfoplane Co., 12/10/33, further re application for Surfoplanes permission to hire out our surfoplones on the Shire beaches, and requesting an interview with the Council for discussing "certain aspects of the proposition". It was resolved 'that they be allowed to address the Council at the next meeting.'
At the November 6th, 1933 meeting Item 36 tells us the Palm Beach District Cricket Club, 26/10/33, (a) inviting Councillors and Officers to attend the opening of the new cricket ground on Careel Bay Park on 11th November at 1.30 p.m; (b) requesting Council to call the reserve at Careel Bay "Hitchcock Park". Council Resolved, - That the reserve be called Hitchcock Park. .(Crs. Austin, Hughes).
And 'At this stage representatives of the Sydney Surfoplane Company waited Upon the Council, as arranged at last Meeting, in support of the Company’s request for permission to 'hire out on the beaches of the Shire. In reply to inquiries made of them by Members of the Council, they stated they were prepared to make a small donation towards the employment of permanent life savers on each beach in Shire, and that they are prepared to appoint returned ; soldiers to manage the hiring out of the surfoplanes on a commission basis, provided the Council could not recommend men who were reliable and good swimmers. It was decided that the Council should witness a demonstration of the surfoplanes.
By November 20th, 1933: ORDERS OF THE DAY: 1. Sydney Surfoplane Company's request for permission to operate surfoplanes C:."tre beaches: 132L0222A, - That this matter be deferred till next meeting to allow the Company to make a proposition as to how much they are prepared to pay the Council for the right. Question of subsidising professional life savers on beaches: Resolved, - ::hat this matter be deferrred to next meeting.
During the first Meeting for Summer, on December 4th, 1933: ORDERS OF THE DAY: Ta) Sydney Surfoplane Company’s request for permission to operate surfoplanos on the Shire beaches. Representatives of Surfoplanes the Company were present and addressed the Council. It was Resolved; That (a) the Company's offer of £3 per week from next Sunday for all beaches in the Shire be accepted.and (b) Subsidising of Professional Life Savers: The President suggested a subsidy of £15 per week, but it was resolved that a subsidy of £2 per week for four weeks be granted.
At the March 12th, 1934 Meeting the Collaroy Progress Assoc.,8/3/34, were stating the Permanent Life Saver Fund Committee desires to retain the services of a Life Saver till Easter, and requesting that the amount of rent received from the Sydney Surfoplane Company in respect of Collaroy Beach be paid to the Committee, pointing out that the Life Saver has had to go to the assistance of more swimmers using the surfoplane than of others. The Council Resolved; That the £21 received be distributed equally among the beaches where surfoplanes have been used, for payment to the Life Savers, and that payment be made immediately. (Ors. Nicholas, Fox)
By April 23rd, 1934: Surfoplanes Ltd., 4/4/34, were advising that the business of surfoplanes is now being carried out by this Company, and requesting an opportunity of discussing with the Council a continuation of the Company's present arrangements with the Council. Council Resolved; They be invited to discuss the matter at next meeting, and that Mr. A. E. Biggs, whose letter appears in "Correspondence", be also invited.
The May 7th 1934 Meeting records provide an insight into changes regarding the use of surfoplanes, etc, on Shire beaches; Mr. Cleary and Dr. Smithers, representatives of Surfoplanes Ltd. interviewed the Council. They informed the Council the new Company had altered the policy and that in future surfoplanes would be leased to the Surf Clubs at 30/- each plane for the season; that the Company would not sell the planes outright to the Clubs, that at the end of each season the Company would obtain the planes and put them in order again, and probably lease them the following season for, say about 7/6 or 10/- each. Council Resolved; - That the Council get in touch with the head of the Surf bodies to ascertain their policy as regards the hiring of surfoplanes, and that Surfoplanes Ltd. be asked to put their proposal fully in writing,(Crs. Barber, Hitchcock) Mr. Biggs and Mr. N. Twight interviewed the Council regarding the use of "surf-breakers" on beaches. They stated a "Surf- breaker was similar to a surfoplane, but much stronger. It was resolved that they should put their proposal in writing also.
By May 21st, 1934: 44. Surfoplanes Ltd. 10/5/34 were confirming their proposal as submitted by its representatives at last Council meeting respecting the hiring of surfoplanes to Surf Clubs, and suggesting Council defer consideration until after the conference between the Surf Life Saving Association and delegate representatives on from the various Clubs and the Company's , 22nd inst. The Surf Life Saving Assoc.,15/5/34, replying that the whole position will be dealt with at the conference of surf clubs on 22nd inst.
Meanwhile, a G. H, Edge, 5/5/34, was requesting permission to hire out rubber surf boards to the public on the Council's beaches for the next season, or alternative, for a period of five years. Council Resolved, — That those letters be "received ", and tenders be called in August.
At the June 18th, 1934 the Surf Life Saving Association, 29/5/34, replied re conference of Surf Clubs respecting use of surfoplanes on beaches, stating it was decided that any further negotiations should take place directly between the Surfoplane Company and the Clubs which were interested. Cr. Nicholas moved that the Surf Clubs which are indebted to the Council for contributions towards the cost of surf buildings be empowered to enter into arrangements with the Surfoplane Company for the use of surfoplanes on their beaches, and that the money derived by the Clubs from this source go to the Council to pay the debts of the Clubs. Cr. Sheppard moved as an amendment, that only the Council make arrangements with the Surfoplane Company for the use of surfoplanes on the Shire beaches. Cr. Fox seconded. The amendment was carried. The motion us amended was thereupon put and carried.
At the July 16th, 1934 Meeting Surfoplanos Ltd., 2/7/34, were applying for permission to operate surfoplanes and similar apparatus on the beaches of the Shire during the ensuing season upon the same for conditions as those of last season, and requesting a reply, as it is desired to lodge orders for surfoplanes. Council Resolved that: Consideration deferred until next meeting.
At the July 30th, 1934 a letter from Surfoplanes Ltd. 2/7/34, applying for Surfoplanes permission to operate surfoplanes and similar apparatus on the Shire beaches during the ensuing season: Consideration was again deferred until next meeting.
At the subsequent August 13th, 1934 Meeting another Surfoplanes letter re their application for permission to operate surfoplanes and similar apparatus on the Shire beaches during the ensuing season: and it was Resolved, - That the matter be dealt with in Committee later. and then- Surfoplanes application: Decided to defer matter again till next meeting. Curiously, at tis same meeting it was Resolved;- That the printer who gets out the ‘’dodger" for the Harbord Vigilant Committee be informed that many of the statements in the "dodgers" are untrue, and be asked to furnish the names of the persons who supply him with the information. The Meeting was declared closed at 10 p.m.
In the August 27th, 1934 Meeting: Re application by Surfoplanes Ltd. for the right, to hire out surfoplanes on the beaches of the Shire, it was Resolved; That tenders be called, as recommended - (a) for each or any beach; and (B) for all the beaches.
At the September 10th, 1934 Meeting: Tenders for extension of, and additions to, North Narrabeen Surf Clubhouse: One tender only was received, that of Carpenter for £438:12.0. Resolved;- That this Surf Club-tender-be accepted. And; Tenders for right to hire out surfoplanes, etc, on beaches: Resolved, - That consideration be deferred till next meeting, and in the meantime, the Council obtain advice from the Shire Solicitors as to whether the Council can prevent the use, on the beaches, of surfoplanes, etc. hired out by adjoining shopkeepers. The ordinary meeting was reopened and the decisions arrived at in Committee were confirmed.
On September 24th, 1934 the Council went INTO COMMITTEE for the purpose of considering tenders for the sole right to hire to the public on the beaches of the surfoplanes and Like appliances. It be decided that any tender received after the closing date be given consideration. Four tenders were received. Council Resolved, - That the highest tender, that of E. Davies, c/c James & Rush, for £225 for the season, prepaid, be accepted. Further, it was Resolved, - That A. Riding be credited with 25%, B. Riding with 40%, and C. Riding with 35% of the income derived from this source. The Ordinary Meeting was then resumed and the decisions in Committee confirmed.
At the December 17th, 1934 Meeting a H. O'Connor, 3/12/34, was complaining that although he holds the rights for the letting of rubber surf boards on the beaches of the Shire, Surfoplanes are enjoying the same rights, are hiring their planes to the public on the beaches at Deewhy, Collaroy and Palm Beach, and storing their planes in the surf boat shed at Deewhy Bench. The Inspector's report on this matter was read, legal advice on the matter and agreement with the tenderer, were also read. Council Resolved;- That Surfoplanes Ltd. be warned not to sell planes or erect signs on property under the control of the Council, and the Inspector to take all possible action to prevent them up the extent of prosecution.
Hmmm... surfoplane wars on the beaches!
At the Meeting held on January 8th, 1935, re Surfoplanes, Council Resolved, - 'That the persons erecting Surfoplanes signs without approval of the Council be prosecuted for the offence, and the Inspector take proceedings, with the assistance of the Shire Solicitors.'
Surfoplanes being used by surf lifesavers. [ca. 1935], courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy ACP Magazines Ltd.. Item: SLNSW_FL19493380
At the May 19th, 1936 Meeting the Surf Life Saving Assoc., 7/5/36, were forwarding for the Council's information, a report by a Sub-Committee of the association relating to the use of surfoplanes on beaches, Hugh E. O'Connor, 28/4/36, was requesting a renewal of the right to operate rubber floats on the Council's surf beaches for the next summer season, and submitting reasons for request. Council Resolved, - That consideration of these letters stand over for three months, and that the local Clubs be communicated with, and asked to express their opinion regarding use of surfoplanes and the like on the beaches.
This showed the rise of incidences of rescues made it into the Council's records. The amount of rubber flotation devices had grown to such an amount that many of the volunteer lifesavers on patrol could not keep their eyes on everyone in the water.
By the September 8th, 1936 Meeting Surfoplanes Ltd., 7/9/36, were submitting an offer for the ensuing season. However the Council Resolved; That the Cleric's report be adopted, that the matter be made an Order of the Day for next meeting, and in the meantime the Councillors be furnished with a copy of the report of the Special Committee of the Life Saving Association on the matter of the use of these appliances on beaches.
At the September 22nd, 1936 Meeting - Re: Surfoplanes and similar appliances on beaches: 'Letters deferred from last meeting, viz - (a) Australian Surf Shooters 1/9/36, submitting an offer for the sole right for three years to hire out surf shooters on all beaches under the Council's control; (b) H. O'Connor, 3/9/36, further re his letter of 28th April last on this subject, and requesting that it now given consideration; and (e) Surfoplanes Ltd.., 7/9/36, submitting an offer for the ensuing surfing season. Council Resolved, - That so far as "A" Riding is concerned, the matter be left to the Surf Club concerned. It was further Resolved; That tenders be called for the right to hire out such appliances on the public beaches in "B" and ‘’C’’' Riding, the successful tenderer to be given the exclusive right on beaches, tenders to be advertised in next 'Saturday's paper, and be dealt with' at next Finance Committee meeting, and that the Council authorise the Finance Committee to finalise the matter.
Also; Mona Vale Park - Mona Vale Cricket Club’s request, that permission be granted to have three trees removed from the park, and Avalon Surf Club, 16/9/36, advising that the Club obtained surfoplanes from Surfoplanes Ltd. last season, and hired them out to raise funds to carry on the Club, that the Club proposes to enter into the same arrangement this coming season, and trusts that no conflicting arrangements will be made by the Council. Council Resolved; That the Club be informed of the Council's decision at this meeting.
By October 20th, 1936 Palm Beach S.L.S. Club, 14/10/36, were advising the Council that the Surfoplane Co. Ltd. has approached the Club regarding the use of surfoplanes at Palm Beach, and inquiring whether Council desires it to be a matter for arrangements between the Club and the Company. Council Resolved; That the Club be advised to make its own arrangements with Surfoplane Co. Ltd.
Further, Day & Irwin, were requesting the right for a period of four months to hire to the public a beach novelty known as the Surfaplane on any beach not granted to Surfoplanos Ltd. Council Resolved; - That it be suggested to them they get in touch with the Surf Clubs who can make their own arrangements, provided there is no competition with Surfoplanes Ltd. Meanwhile, Palm Beach S.L.S. Club, 14/10/36, regarding necessity for proceeding as soon as possible with the construction of boat shed and casualty room at Palm Beach, suggesting that the structures form a composite building situated on the reserve at the corner of Ocean and Palm Beach Road.
By June 1st 1937 Surfoplanes Ltd., 14/5/37, were advising they are anxious to make immediate plans for the manufacture of next season's: stock of surfoplanes, and inquiring whether Council would consider an offer now for the right to hire out surfoplanes on the beaches of the Shire during the next surfing season. Council Resolved - That tenders be called for the sole right to hire out surfoplanes, &c on all the beaches of the Shire. (Crs. Campbell, Nicho)as)
By the June 15th, 1937 Meeting; Tenders for the sole right to hire out on the surf beaches of the surfoplanes, surf boards, and the like appliances from 1st October to 30th April next: Three tenders were received. Resolved, - That the highest tender, that of Surfoplanes Ltd. of £255, payable by equal instalments monthly in advance, be accepted.
In the November 2nd, 1937. Surfoplanes Ltd., 22/10/37, were applying for the right to hire, out beach umbrellas or the like on the beaches of the Shire for a period of three years at a nominal rental of £10 per year, payable yearly in advance. Council Resolved, - That the Council give them the desired right at a charge of £35 per year. This signalled what would become a growing trend on our beaches with a 'one stop hire shop' present on the sand or its perimeters for much of what you would need - a boon for those operating these, and for those who travelled to the beaches by bus and could not carrying deck chairs and umbrellas and the like on those buses.
Also at this Meeting Police Report, 21/10/37,. on unauthorised removal of turf from Council's reserve at Careel Bay by Arthur Neil Morrison and Edmund Morrison, both of Vaucluse, on 18th inst. Resolved, - That the Police be asked to prosecute the offenders., (Cr2. Green, Campbell)
At the November 16th 1937 Meeting Surfoplanes Ltd., 8/11/37,-re its application for the right to hire umbrellas on the beaches of the Shire for a period of three years, increasing its offer for the current season to £20, payable in advance, with an option of renewal for a further two periods at a similar rental, and pointing out that the project is at present of a purely speculative nature. Cr. Green moved, Cr. Paul seconding, that they be given the right for twelve months at a charge of £30. Cr. Rose moved as an amendment, Cr. Campbell seconding, that they be given the right for two years at £20 for the first year, and £40 for the second year. The amendment was carried on division by five votes to four, the majority consisting of Crs. Ross, Campbell, Hewitt, Nicholas - - and Hughes. The motion as amended was thereupon put and carried.
Surfoplanes were also replying that the Company has made arrangements to operate surf skis on the beaches of the Shire during the current season under the rights granted it by the Council to hire out "surfoplanes, surf boards and like appliances". Council Resolved, - that the operators of the surf skis be informed the Council-considers the appliances dangerous to the surfing public, and will not permit them to be used in any of the areas being used by surfers.
The following year, at the August 16th, 1938 Meeting, tenders for the right to let rubber floats, surfoplanes, and the like appliances (surf skis excluded) on the ocean beach reserves under the control of the Council for the next two surfing seasons were read. Three tenders were received. Council Resolved; That consideration of these tenders be deferred until next meeting, and that in the meantime, Surfoplanes Ltd. be asked whether its tender of £240 is for one season or for the two seasons.
At the September 13th, 1938 Meeting Tenders for the sole right to "let' surfoplanes, rubber surfoplanes floats; &c (excluding surf skis) on the ocean beach reserve, under the Council's control for the two ensuing surfing seasons were read. Two tenders were received, viz - Surfoplanes Ltd. at £130 for each season, and Surf Shooters Pty. Ltd. £200 for the two seasons. Council Resolved; That the higher tender, that of Surfoplanes Ltd. be accepted.
At the April 30th, 1940 Meeting Surfoplanes Ltd., 15/4/40, were requesting Council to extend for a further period of years the Company's right to let surfoplanes, etc, on the Council's beaches at the current rental of £130 per annum. Council Resolved; The Company be informed the Council will grant it the desired right for another twelve months subject to the payment of a fee of £150.
Obviously they did as at the December 16th, 1941 Meeting the now Surfoplanes Management Co. Pty. Ltd., 27/11/41, were writing re further storage facilities on beaches stating that arrangements have been made for the use of premises at Deewhy and Collaroy, but requesting, in regard to Harbord, that they be allowed to partition off an area under the lavatories. Council Resolved, - The Company be informed the Council cannot see its to accede to the request, as there is a septic tank under the lavatories. With regard to the use of a small room at the Collaroy surf building for the storage of surfoplanes, the Company be notified it must take the planes out of the room by 9 a.m., that it must cause no untidiness, and must refrain from taking the planes through the public entrance of the building; that the Inspector take the matter up with the Company to ensure compliance with these instructions.
Also at that meeting; Barrenjoey S.L.S.Club, 25/11/41, requesting that the front portion of the recently erected surf sheds at Barrenjoey Beach be enclosed for the purpose of protecting the life saving gear, and offering to bear the cost if the Council will carry out the work. Council Resolved; That the request be complied with, and the Council carry out the work at the expense of the Club.
By the Meeting held on December 23rd, 1941 Surfoplanes Management Co. Pty. Ltd., had written, letter dated 18/12/41, regarding the Council's requirement that the surfoplanes stored in the Collaroy surf building should be removed before 9 each day and not returned before 6 p.m., requesting that these times be altered to 10 a.m. and.5 p.m. respectively, and setting out reasons for the request; requesting alternatively that the Company's agent be given a key to the side door of the building. The Council resolved; - That the Council alter the times to 9.30 a.m. and respectively, as recommended.by the Inspector.
The war years, barbed wire all over beaches, rubber being used to fight World War Two through being used in equipment required, and people staying away form the coast changed this lucrative business.
At the Meeting held April 28th, 1942 the records show Surfoplanes Management Co. Pty. ltd., 14/4/42, were submitting request for a reduction in the amount payable by the Company for the sole right to let surfoplanes on the beaches of the Shire during the season just ended, giving in detail reasons for such request. Council Resolved; That the Council agree to accept £100 in full settlement of the debt, provided payment is made within 30 days.
At the next month's Meeting, held on May 12th, 1942, Surfoplanes Management Co. Pty. Ltd., 4/5/42, were explaining the Company's inability to pay the fee of £100 (as conditionally reduced by Council) in respect of the Company's operations on the beaches during the last surfing season suggesting, in effect, that the fee be reduced to £65, and that the Company be permitted to trade during future seasons on the beaches and to settle the debt from its takings, the Company having no money available at present wherewith to pay. Council Resolved; That the Shire Clerk's recommendation that they be asked to pay £75, and tenders be called next season, be adopted.
At the Meeting held on December 8th, 1942 (During the discussion on this matter Cr. Hitchcock left the meeting for the purpose of catching the last bus to Palm Beach.) Surfoplanes Ltd. V. the Council: The Shire Clerk reported Mr. L. Jones had telephoned him that this matter would come on for hearing at the Manly Court on Thursday next, 10th inst. under the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations, that Surfoplanes Ltd. had made an offer of settlement at £75 (offered by the Council some months ago), provided they were permitted to pay the money in instalments of £25 each on 1st January, 1st April and 1st July next. Council Resolved; That Council agree to a settlement on these terms provided that, with the first instalment, the whole of the Council’s costs in the matter be paid by the Company.
At the October 14th, 1947 Meeting the tender of E. C. James for £88.0 per Trading right to hire surfoplanes at Newport Beach was accepted. One tender only, was received for the right to hire out surfoplanes at Collaroy and North Narrabeen Beaches and fresh tenders were to be called in respect of these beaches. Council also Resolved, -. That the tender of J. M. Hawkes for £20 per quarter for the right to hire out umbrellas, shades, wigwams chairs, etc, at Palm Beach be accepted.:
October 28th, 1947: Hire of Surfoplanes: One tender only was received, from Surfoplanes Pty, Ltd. Resolved, - That tender be accepted, viz - £20 for Collaroy and £5 for South Narrabeen. Resolved, - That Surfoplanes Pty. Ltd. be instructed to remove their advertising sign from Harbord Beach Reserve.
At the November 11th, 1947: Surfoplanes Management Co. Pty Ltd. 31/10/47, (a) replying that it has been noted that the Council grants the Company sole rights to hire surfoplanes at Collaroy and North Narrabeen, but pointing out that their tender was for surfoplanes and shades and that permission was asked for the use of a small room adjoining the men's dressing sheds at Collaroy for storage - purposes and assuming that Council has accepted such tender; (b) submitting an offer of £25 for sole rights to hire shades at Harbord Beach, it being understood that rights have been granted for the hire of rubber floats only; an& (c) stating that the surfoplanes sign at Harbord Beach, which has been there since 1942, is on private property, and that it is proposed to erect a new and more suitable sign in the same position. Decisions:- (a) that the tender, as set outs be accepted;(b) referred to the Parks and Reserves Committee, (c) that permission be not granted for the erection of the sign. In this connection, Cr. Dunbar pointed out that the attention of the Surf Life Saving Association be drawn to the dangers from the use of surfoplanes.
At the December 9th, 1947 Meeting Surf Life Saving Assoc., 3/1247 were replying that it is of the opinion that surfoplanes, if properly controlled, should not constitute any particular danger.
J M Hawkes is Johnny Morgan Hawkes, a name that has popped up a few times in history research associated with Palm Beach. He had been a habitué of Palm Beach since the 1930's, is the gentleman who was Santa Claus for Palm Beach kindergarten attendees during the 1940's and 1950's, hosted the works of the Barrenjoey Artists at his Johnny Hawkes Bazaar next to the pavilion, and having artistic aspirations himself, was known for making winter trips to Dunk Island as a friend of the original South Australian born European owner, Hugo Brassey. He himself had been born in South Australia on January 31st 1911, the son of Cuthbert and Lucy Ada Hawkes.
During WWII he served in the AIF (NX131204) enlisting at Bathurst.
CANDID CAMERA shooting by Alastair Stephen when he and his wife and young daughter Sophia are guests at Palm Beach of Mrs. Peter Russo (right). Mrs. Russo, formerly artist Mitty Lee Brown, spends holiday painting at her home high above the sea.
PROUDLY CLUTCHING their surf-o'-planes Adrienne Hill and Caroline Graham are having a wonderful time at the beach. Mrs. "Chip" Hill (left), of Colley Plains, Quirindi, and sister Mrs. Francis Graham, are sharing a house over Christmas and January.
PICTURE OF A gentleman saying "Cheese!" Young Anthony Jensen is so camera conscious that he automatically says "cheese" when he's snapped. Sheila Smart, (left), Johnny Hawkes, and Anthony's mother, Josie Jensek, sunbake at Palm Beach. Palm Beach Jottings (1947, January 4). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 13. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47507384
Palm Beach playboy Johnnie Hawkes will astonish local farmers when he launches his new business venture "Bucks' Bazaar," a sort of secluded sanctuary where lonely hearts can get fixed up with a new swim-suit or a fresh idea . ... which-ever they need most. MALE CALL (1947, November 2). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230560048
Back at Romano's in clothes and shoes (after wearing just skin and bare feet at Hugo Brassey's Dunk Island home) are Palm Beach sahib Johnny Hawkes and Canadian painter Mike Hall, who styled himself as "the world's best commercial artist" ... until he met a man called Pablo Picasso. Look Who's Here (1948, September 30). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 15 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231149441
Look Who's Here
NEWEST and smartest playground for the social set is Bob Stephen's Palm Beach Country Club on Ocean Road . . . you may remember the hostelry as former guest house Tigh-Na-Mara.
Nick Pery, who used to spend the summer slaving over the refrigerator in his Whale Beach kitchen, has booked himself in for every weekend and each pancake Tuesday. Meryl Glasson has been given membership, and Bruce Gale has selected a shady spot under the old apple bough for his "Melbourne friend, J. C. McCahan, who threatens to move in with his family. There's a reception-room set aside for folk who want to throw their own cocktail parties. This will save local residents the bother of having to cart carpets, chandeliers and crystal- stemmed glasses down to the beach. Dr. and Mrs. Clem Downes have a high priority on the booking desk, and sweet little Geraldine Pitt thinks it sounds like a good place to relax from modelling chores.
Playboy Johnny Hawkes, who conducts a Surfers' Shoppe on the seething sands, arrived in a fine outburst of "Let’s Be Neighbors. With him he brought a bucket of paint, a camel-hair brush or two, begged permission to "commit a little art, don't y' know." Maybe he got the idea from his drinking mate, the Canadian artist Mike Hall. Mike can really paint, is said to be drawing blonde ducks on the bathroom walls. In any case, it's good crazy weather for it, and for the American-type buffet served indoors or under umbrellas in the garden, from sun-up to sunset .... only formal meal is dinner at night. Look Who's Here (1948, October 28). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 15 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231146714
Johnny Hawkes, one of Palm Beach's glamor boys, seems to me to spend the ideal life. He runs a surfers' service at the Beach through summer, and spends the winter living a "Bongo-Bongo-I-don't-want-to-leave-the-Congo" life at Barrier Reef. On Saturday he rescued a gent in difficulties in a moderate surf. The gent gave a grunt (probably full of sea water) and walked some distance. He came back and gave Hawkes five bob, which will be part of next year's fare back to the Congo. CONTACT (1948, October 18). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 1 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231141272
Johnny Hawkes surfers bazaar, circa 1951
Johnny was also associated with the Beach Combers Surf Board Club, one of the first board riders club in Australia, based at Palm Beach under Johnny Hawkes Beach Café located next door to the Palm Beach Pavillion (Dressing Sheds).
The café & building was destroyed by huge seas in the late 1960s.
Johnny passed away in 1986.
Surf mats and boogie boards gave us some of our great early surfing champions as they graduated from these fun mats that float to surfboards.
None of that supersedes being safer in the water because you can swim or float and read the water prior to going in though. And this Summer, with so many children likely to have missed their early swimming lessons due to what has prevailed the last few years, and being given flotation devices to play with, this insight hopefully inspires extra vigilance around our children this Season.
Never taking your eye off them in or around the water is how most will approach days at the beach and other waterways.
References - Notes
John Morgan Hawkes Research Notes.pdf
Size : 869.172 Kb
Type : pdf
- Damian and Lucie Geyle of the Barrenjoey Swim School - interview for Profile, 2022
- Paul Bailey - Interview for Profile 2022
- National Water Safety Summit 2022 Review
- Ron Turton - Profile
- Pearl Turton -Profile
- The Beachcombers Surfboard Riding Club: Palm Beach, NSW - 1959 to 1961 - History page feature
- TROVE - National Library of Australia
- A Paipo Interview with John Ruffels a Telephone interview by Bob Green of 2010, retrieved from: https://mypaipoboards.org/interviews/JohnRuffels/JohnRuffels_2011-0305.shtml
- Barrenjoey Artists' Commune In The Lighthouse Cottages: Post WWII Social Infrastructure Investment Enriched Australia's Cultural Evolution
- Beach beyond : a History of Palm Beach Surf Club. Brawley, Sean. 1996
- Palm Beach SLSC Records
- Warringah Shire Council Records
Ernest Eric Smithers - Date of Death 03/12/1973, Granted on 16/07/1974
Ernest William Smithers - Date of Death 19/03/1935, Granted on 30/07/1936
Warringah Shire Council records
Palm Beach 26. The Palm Beach Progress Association's letter, 2/9/21, Sheds; urging erection of dressing shed at Palm Beach, and offering to arrange for cost of erection, if Council provide the material, was read in conjunction with the report. Resolved. - (Crc. Hitchcock, quirk) That the proposal be approved, 35 to be voted for the supply of the necessary material, - the (Vote) sheds to be in accordance with the plan submitted by Mr. Kerr, and to be completed to the Council' s satisfaction.
Palm Beach Barrenjoey Co. Ltd. 17/9/21, requesting Council to accept dedication of way of access from Florida Road to Ocean Road: Beach Reserves. Palm Beach : Resolved - (arc. Quirk, Hitchcock) That the Council accept dedication, with a recommendation that the width be 66 ft. .
Barrenjoey Co 7/7/22, complaining of the unsanitary and filthy condition of the public dressing sheds at Palm Beach. Decided that Cr, Hitchcock should endeavour to get a man to carry out sanitary attendance at the sheds weekly.
May 14th, 1956: A H Mack & Lenny Architects 4/5/56, re Harbord Surf Pavillion - advising that following a discussion with the Shire Engineer, they submit prices quoted by the builders Messrs. Pappas & Wall, for additional work viz - two additional showers to men’s dressing area £57 Attendant’s store below men's toilets, rendered and painted outside only, £64; Members' Harbord toilets - new W.C. and urinal, including louvred window, £207.6.0; and Surfoplane store at northern end, £275 - Total £603.6.0. Resolved - That £603.6.0 be voted for this additional work. (Crs. Fisher, Quinlan)
Hundreds See Drowning Tragedy
SYDNEY, December 26.
In view of hundreds who were surfing at Palm Beach today, Victor Vivian Guest, 14. of Turrawa, in the north-west part of the State, was knocked off a surf board by a wave and drowned.
Guest was on a holiday in Sydney, and was staying with his brother in Gilbert street. Rose Bay. A family party was enjoying a day at Palm Beach when the boy went out on a surfboard at about 1.50 pjn. When he disappeared many surfers tried to find his body, but it disappeared in a choppy sea. Hundreds See Drowning Tragedy (1937, December 27). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36399224
Palm Beach victim not found
NO trace has yet been found of, the body of Vivian Guest. 14. of- Turrawan, who was drowned while surfing at Palm Beach an Sunday. Police are still watching the foreshores. PALM BEACH VICTIM NOT FOUND (1937, December 28). The Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 - 1938), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article237433610
Mr. and Mrs. V. Guest, of Turrawan, wish to sincerely thank all kind friends for their sympathy in the recent sad death of their son Victor Vivian. Family Notices (1938, January 31). The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133304468
New edition of standard
THE STANDARDS Association of Australia has published a new edition of its standard dealing with children's floating toys and swimming aids.
AS 1900, Children's Flotation Toys and Swimming Aids, was prepared at the request of the Trade Practices Commission. It specifies requirements relating to the safety and marking of a variety of products, including kickboards, inflatable boats and rings, surf mats, swimming tuition aids, swimming-aid vests and inflatable armbands.
The Attorney-General's Department will soon look at whether the standard should be referred to in regulations under the Trade Practices Act.
Copies of the standard can be bought from any Standards Association office for $9.20 (for subscribe ing members) and $12.27 (for non-members) plus a $2.50 postage and handling charge.
The association has also published a new edition of its guide to safety relating to outside swimming pools and spas on residential properties.
AS 2818, Guide to Swimming Pool Safety, has been revised to incorporate requirements for several design features which were not in the 1985 edition. These include requirements for skimmer boxes and allowable underwater profiles for the sides of swimming pools.
In 1985 the NSW Department of Consumer Affairs took action to ban the sale of a skimmer box, found mainly in premoulded plastic swimming pools, which had caused severe injuries to young children. The new requirements in AS 2818 are intended to preclude such accidents.
Another major cause of swimming-pool accidents is related to diving into swimming pools and striking the bottom. This has caused many severe injuries including paraplegia and was highlighted in the 1984 Water Safety Week Seminar with its theme Survive the Dive.
The Standards Association says it is "extremely difficult" to design a backyard swimming pool which is foolproof as far as diving is concerned. Accident statistics show that many injuries are the result of people diving into the shallow end or into a pool which was never intended for diving.
The new requirements for underwater profiles are intended to ensure that people diving or jumping from the sides of pools will not encounter any unexpected irregularities leading from the walls to the floor of the pool.
Suggested layouts of pool fencing and guidance on the safe use and maintenance of swimming pools arc unchanged from the 1985 edition.
Copies of AS 2818 can be bought from any Standards Association office for $2 (subscribing members) and $2.67 (non-members), plus SI for postage and handling. New edition of standard (1986, October 26). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 14. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118271273
The Palm Beach Story
" Very cliquey"
By DAVID McNICOLL
Palm Beach is a narrow strip of sand and bushland lying between Pittwater and the Pacific Ocean. Its front, or ocean side, faces a restless surf; its rear, or Pittwater side, only a hundred yards or so away, faces a wide, smooth expanse of untroubled water.
The North-Easter blows a little too strongly in the afternoon; the sand has a clinging viscous quality; the surf is seldom without seaweed and storm water drains empty into it; the public swimming pool is rather scrofulous; the traffic is quite intolerable; the surf, as a surfing proposition, is anything but satisfactory.
Why then is Palm Beach considered the most attractive beach-home area in Australia? (I steadfastly refuse to use the term “resort”.)
Why have so many of us forsaken it? And why have so many who forsook it decided to go back there?
I cannot claim to be a real old Palm Beach hand. I didn’t know it in the early days, and I haven’t spent much time there in recent years. But as a youth in the 1930’s I spent golden holidays at the old Curlewis home and later, in the ’40s, I lived at Palm Beach for some years and actually built a dream house which looks at me reproachfully whenever I drive past it.
The real “old hands”, the early originals, will tell you that Palm Beach has been spoilt. They don’t like the inrush of the nouveau riche, the roar of sports cars around the narrow hill roads, the weekend crush on the beach.
The old hands are fighting a determined rearguard action to save Palm Beach from the fate which generally befalls holiday spots. They have, year after year, successfully resisted any attempt to build a hotel in the area (the nearest is Newport). They have successfully forced the removal of the “permanent” campers from the reserve adjoining the golf course (some of these establishments luxuriating in such names as KUMANAVACHAT, comprised up to three rooms, on floor boards, with refrigerators, lounge suites and double beds).
The old hands have met their reverses. They failed to prevent traffic from going any further along the beach front than Howlett’s Store, for instance. But, all in all, Palm Beach’s conservative coterie have been able to keep the place reasonably quiet, reasonably exclusive, moderately well-behaved, and the general standard of house very high.
You have to seek people of fairly advanced years to hear about early Palm Beach. Many of the originals have gone, and the memories of others are fading.
But you can draw from their minds a picture of what must have been an idyllic spot in the early days of this century.
Getting to Palm Beach before World War I was a real operation. If you lived on the North Shore you took a train to Milson’s Point, a ferry to the Quay, another ferry to Manly, tram to Narrabeen, coach to Newport, then Agar’s launch from Newport to Palm Beach. Or you could go by train to Brooklyn, and take Izzard’s launch down the Hawkesbury to Palm Beach.
It all took fortitude, and when cars started to be used, it often took strength when they bogged, or tyres blew, and chains had to be put on.
But the glory of Palm Beach in those days quite compensated for the worries and tribulations of the trip. It was a paradise of trees, flowers, and wild life.
Koalas, which are rarely seen now, were commonplace. And wildflowers were everywhere between the superb red-trunked gums which are the hall-mark of Palm Beach.
It was a fairly primitive hurricane-lamp life in those early days, but interest in Palm Beach was growing, and the first land sale was held in 1912. The first house was built by James Robson Scott, on the saddle between the front and back beaches, and his daughter Mrs K. D. Jones still lives there. Soon afterwards, more houses appeared the Mackays, the Wilshires, the Chorley’s (now the Cabbage Tree Club).
Barrenjoey Light had been blinking away for many years, and the lighthouse keeper would alert the Customs agent (whose small cottage was tucked on the hillside near the Robson Scotts). The lighthouse keeper was Mr Gow, and his son, when he returned as a lieutenant from World War I, went into business with his batman, Reg Howlett, in the first Palm Beach store, Gow & Howletts.
Provisions and bread would come by launch down the Hawkesbury, milk would be collected by billy at Hitchcock’s (where the Golf Club now stands), and fresh fish and lobsters would be bought direct from the fishermen who sheltered in small shanties round the foot of Barrenjoey.
Many of the Palm Beach pioneers and their descendants still own houses at the beach—the Maitlands, Ralstons, Curlewises, among them. Although many houses have been rebuilt, round the quieter corners of Palm Beach you will find many houses dating from the ’20s.
There is Halcyon (I remember Billy Hughes shouting his way through one Christmas as its tenant); the old Pratten house, Tidapa; the beautiful old place built by Mr Rayner (who owned a restaurant over the Lane Cove wharf), which now belongs to Canadian Rudolph Mueller. Mr Mueller has become the most fervid conscience of Palm Beach, and over the years has fought grimly to preserve the beauty and amenities of the outpost.
The rise of Palm Beach to fashionable acceptance really started when the four doctors built their houses on the ridge looking down to the rough in the morning light and the still in the evening light.
There were four of them—Drs Thring, Bullmore, Craig and Godsall, and their little ridge became known as “Pill Hill”.
Their houses are still there, and some are still “in the family”. But where these medicos would have looked out on wooded slopes, today they would see among the trees hundreds of roofs, red, green, blue and white.
The spec. builders
It will probably come as a surprise to most people to learn that there is no real luxury in Palm Beach homes. Compared with the houses at Sorrento and Portsea’s Golden Mile, or with the houses at Mount Eliza, they are almost shanty-simple. Furnishing is generally utilitarian and “beachy”, beds scatter in profusion round verandahs, meals are eaten in kitchen nooks and servants (except for a few nannies or aged house-keepers) are the exception rather than the rule. There is no dressing up, and the emphasis is rather blatantly on informality in attire. Cars are left unceremoniously to the ravages of the salt air in driveways and roads, but seldom under cover. Certain food deliveries are
made, but most inhabitants make regular visits to the P.J. Stores, or the ice merchant, or the apothecary’s establishment of Mr Alf. Curtis.
Most fun is in the homes, as it always has been. There are clubs of course. The Cabbage Tree has its share of jollity, and the Pacific Club maintains an air of dignity mixed with informality, rather like a Girl Guide who has been goosed by a playful passer-by but who wants to be a jolly good sport about it all.
Over on the “still” side is the RSL Club, where the “local permanents” gather. Here you will meet your plumber, your builder, your milkman, your SP operator, your garage mechanic, your doctor and a scattering of the “hillites” as well.
Palm Beach has two or three restaurants really fish cafes. The fish, naturally, is always fresh. The fishermen operate out of Pittwater, and, besides the commercial catching, will turn on outings for the young gentry—long, delightfully boozy days starting at 5 a.m. in the blaze of the new sun and ending during the afternoon when the amateur fishermen, lips cracked and eyes red-rimmed, divide up the baskets of bream and trevally and nannygai. Or do I dream?
When I talk of the simplicity of the life and the homes at Palm Beach, I hope I do not give the impression that, as beach houses, they are inadequate.
Far from it. Many of them are magnificent. There are, alas, many suburban cottages which spec, builders have erected under the impression that what goes at Bankstown goes at P.B. But Sydney's architects have done some great work at Palm Beach, and there are dozens of homes where ingenuity and beauty have been wedded in a startlingly effective way.
There are, too, some ghastly edifices, monuments to classic lack of taste. But the profusion of semi-tropic growth goes a long way towards healing the sores of misplaced suburbia. Gardens flourish at Palm Beach. Bananas, frangipanni, jacaranda, oleander, hibiscus, paw paws, occasional mango and avocado trees, giant ferns and tangling tropical vines.
Arthur Browning, the “society book-maker” whose house (known to some as Hernia Hill) sits on the side of a steep incline, has a winding walk of lush tropic growth through which the sunlight barely filters and the sound of cars only a hundred yards away are almost completely deadened.
Perhaps to the public the best known of the Palm Beach houses is the “Hordern” house; the second best known, the “Coles” house. The Hordern house sits in a large area of lawn at the southern end of the beach. It has for years been keenly sought as a summer letting proposition.
I recall the buzz of talk twenty odd years ago when the late George Falkiner paid £35 a week for the Hordern house in high summer. It was a fantastic price as though Aly Khan were paying £1000 a week for some villa at Cap d’Antibes. But today poof! If you want a house practically any decent house at Palm Beach—your mid-summer rentals will start at £35.
One of the secrets of Palm Beach’s comparative exclusiveness is that it cannot be approached from the North. There is only one way to get to the little sand-spit, and that is from the South. If Palm Beach had been set on a North-South Road, I feel the battle to keep a hotel out would have been lost long ago.
THERE are lots of characters at Palm Beach. Many of them have prospered with the beach. Johnny Hawkes, who ran a small kiosk, and rented out surfoplanes while he between times let the golden sun pour down on him, is now an established Palm Beach business-man. Reg Howlett, who has left Palm Beach, finished his years of cheerful toil a comfortably fixed gentleman with real estate holdings on the peninsula. The local real estate agents, if one can believe local gossip, are not experiencing any financial stringency. The same applies to most of the local tradespeople.
Their lives are good, and their business fairly steady summer and winter, because these days a majority of Palm Beach houses are occupied the year round (it is said that the temperature in winter is 5-10 degrees higher than Sydney).
The summer season at Palm Beach can be very hectic. You build up your health by day and destroy it by night. Quite apart from the youthful “rorts” which carry on throughout the nights at the beach-front clubs, the entertaining in the private houses is continuous and solid.
Palm Beach is very cliquey. Some people who built lavish houses there ten years ago, and who throw money around as though it is shortly to become unfashionable, have never met the so-called society leaders of Palm Beach.
Nor have they been able to join the Cabbage Tree or Pacific Clubs. It should not worry these people if they came to Palm Beach for its beauty and climate —but it obviously does. You can go out night after night to parties at Palm Beach and you will see the same faces every night. Many people merely transfer to the beach the entertainment of the identical people they entertain in town. Beneath its informal air of gaiety, snobbery is rampant at Palm Beach and only among the young, sporting in the surf or on the beach does it seem to disperse. Sex has no barriers.
The Elanora Country Club is an important part of the Palm Beach summer. Set just above Narrabeen, this glorious club is close enough to Palm Beach to be used in conjunction with it. Nothing is more pleasant than to swim and surf in the morning, then drive to Elanora for lunch and golf in the afternoon. Elanora is for many Palm Beachers a link with comfort during the summer, somewhere to go and forget about preparing meals.
What do land and houses cost at P-B. these days? My wife bought a block for £80 in 1941 which would bring £1800 today.
£200 a foot
Palm Beach’s biggest real estate shock was when the block next to Mr Ernest Turnbull's sold for £8000. That sent values soaring to crazy heights. Now a friend of mine has been offered a 70ft frontage alongside his house (which he would need only to protect his view) for £6000. The land in Pacific Road, on the hillside, brings £120 a foot. But the real prices are being paid for the water-front land in Iluka Road on the Pittwater side. Graham Pratten can recall this land going at £3 a foot, thirty odd years ago. Today it brings in excess of £200 a foot.
Houses vary in cost, according to the usual qualifications, but principally because of position. A good house, with a good view, costs between £12,000 and £18,000. One of the “show” houses was bought a couple of years ago by a quixotic character for £28,000. It went on the market for £40,000, then when nobody would even come at £30,000 was made available at the price originally paid. It is still not sold. But, out of the blue, a purchaser could arrive who has “discovered” Palm Beach, and the house would go for cash in an hour. That’s the way real estate is at Palm Beach— quite unpredictable, quite fluid, weak when it looks strong, strong when it looks weak.
I like Palm Beach, but I wouldn’t go there to live again. The traffic on the roads has ruined it for commuters. And if an expressway goes through, the peninsula will merely become another Manly. I am happy that I knew it in the comparatively “olden” days of the ’thirties, when you would wind your phone and ask for a number, and the old postmistress would say: “No good ringing them. They’re all out. I think they’ve gone to the so-and-so’s for cocktails.”
There was something very appealing about Palm Beach in those days. From: (1880). The bulletin Vol. 86 No. 4381 (8 Feb 1964) Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-673871805